Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Lesson of Lazarus of Bethany’
© October 6, 2019, by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn ##499: The Master Has Come, and He Calls Us; Choruses
Prayers and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests
Responsive Reading #644: Christ and Immortality of Prayer (1 Corinthians 15)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Lesson of Lazarus of Bethany’
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church on this, the first Sunday of October 2019. Being the first Sunday of the month, we will share communion with all believers present who desire to partake in the Lord’s Supper and remember Jesus’ sacrifice to pay the judgment for the sins of all humanity; that judgment being death. With Jesus’ death comes a reconciliation to all those who are willing to accept the Lord’s gift, confess their sins, and choose to follow His way or path as described in His Gospel.
For our lesson today, entitled: ‘The Lesson of Lazarus of Bethany’, we will examine one Jesus’ miracles, namely the resurrection from the dead of a man whom the Bible identifies as Lazarus of Bethany, brother to Martha and Mary.
Those who were here two Sundays ago, on September 22, may recall the lesson, ‘Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God Lazarus Miracle, namely and Our Neighbour’, which included as one of its Scripture Verses, John 12:1-8 (ESV):
Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany
12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Footnotes: a. John 12:3 Greek litra; a litra (or Roman pound) was equal to about 11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams b. John 12:5 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer c. John 12:7 Or Leave her alone; she intended to keep it
It is the resurrection of Lazarus, described in Verses 12:1-8 of John’s Gospel, which is the focus of our lesson today. You will find the account of the Lazarus miracle in John 11:1-44 (ESV), which is printed inside of the Bulletin, having the title:
The Death of Lazarus
11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus[a] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,[b] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
At this point I would like to pause so as to recapitulate that there was a man named Lazarus, who had two sisters, Martha and Mary, the three lived in the village of Bethany and were loved by Jesus. Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus that their brother was ill, hoping that that the Lord would heal Lazarus. Jesus waited two days before informing the disciples of their friend was asleep, later explaining that Lazarus’ asleep and that he had intended to waken their friend in order to Glorify him as the son of God, which in-turn would glorify God, the Father. Rather than just healing Lazarus of his illness, the Lord chose to wait until Lazarus had died in order to awaken from the sleep of death, and by resurrecting their friend, the disciples might believe in the glory of God and the glory of their Lord. Let us continue reading from Chapter 11 of John’s gospel, at verse 17, of John 11:17-27 (ESV):
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles[c] off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Jesus arrives at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany, near Jerusalem, where Martha comes out of the house to meet Jesus, but Mary chose to remain inside. Martha reflects Jesus that it had been there before her brother had passed, that the Lord would have not allowed Lazarus to die.
Jesus responds to Martha indicating that her brother will rise again, but Martha thinks the Lord is talking about the resurrection of the faithful that will occur on the Day of Judgment. However, Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and the life. Again, Martha again assumes Jesus is talking about Judgment Day. Let us continue with our Scripture at Verse 28 of John 11:28-37 (ESV):
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
When Mary hears of Jesus’ arrival and echoes her sister’s complaint implying that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death. Mary’s weeping, as well as the grief of the other Jews who had come to console Mary and Martha moved and troubled Jesus so much, that the Lord was moved to tears, as we read in of John 11:28-37 (ESV):
Jesus Raises Lazarus
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Footnotes: a. John 11:6 Greek he; also verse 17 b. John 11:16 Greek Didymus c. John 11:18 Greek fifteen stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters e. John 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life f. John 11:33 Or was indignant; also verse 38
It is at this point in the Lazarus narrative that Jesus thanks his Father in heaven for a miracle which would convince those not only Martha and Mary, but the disciples, and those gathered around the tomb would believe that Jesus was sent by Father and that the Holy Spirit had answered the sadness that troubled Jesus with making the words spoken by the Lord, “Lazarus, come out” a true miracle, proving the Lord’s glory.
A bit of Bible trivia, John 11, verse 35, “Jesus wept” happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible. Also, the name Lazarus comes from Hebrew Eleazar, which means “God Has Helped”.
Christian author C.S. Lewis comments on the resurrection of Lazarus as:
“we follow One who stood and wept at the grave of Lazarus-not surely, because He was grieved that Mary and Martha wept, and sorrowed for their lack of faith (though some thus interpret) but because death, the punishment of sin, is even more horrible in his eyes than in ours.”
― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics
When we consider the love that Jesus had for his friends, Lazarus, and the grief that he shared with Martha and Mary, we might consider a commentary on love made by C.S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Jesus wept because his heart was broken by the sadness and grief that his human side of the Son of God shared with those who wept. The vulnerable expression of weeping by the Lord came as a human expression of shares grief and sadness of his spirit. God responded to Jesus’ grief by restoring life to Lazarus as proof that Jesus is His own Son.
In Romans 12:15, the apostle Paul describes sharing tears with those who grieve as a “mark of a true Christian”, Romans 12:15 (ESV):
Marks of the True Christian
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
In his second letter to the members of the church, Paul describes the mortal bodies that we have now in this life, as temporary residences not unlike a tent, with body awaiting us in heaven being described as an eternal, not like those built by human hands, accompanied with burdens that make us groan. It is the presence Holy Spirit given as a reward to the believer’s faith is also a guarantee of the resurrection and a new eternal body when our Lord returns, Corinthians 5:1-10 (ESV):
Our Heavenly Dwelling
5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 5:3 Some manuscripts putting it off
Last week marked the passing of a sister in Christ, Maria Teresa Pereira, known affectionately to family and friends as Teresa. At BLCF, we became acquainted with Teresa as a volunteer with our BLCF café Community Dinner. Teresa’s faith was revealed by both her spoken testimony and deed as she helped prepare and serve meals at the community dinner. Her witness and testimonials were shared both individually as well as to all from the pulpit. Like Lazarus, Teresa had two sisters, who grieved when the time came to leave her temporary home. But unlike Mary and Martha, Teresa’s sisters have a faith in the Resurrected Christ and the promise of an eternal home waiting for her in heaven.
By his sacrifice in the cross, Jesus paid the price for reconciliation with God of the believer’s debt for sin, giving the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of a new eternal body with the Lord in heaven. This is why a Christian funeral is a celebration of an eternal reward, rather than grief and sadness for death as a final debt for sin. Jesus paid that bill for all who believe and have faith in him. This is the Lesson of Lazarus of Bethany. Remember:
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #440: All the Way My Savior Leads Me
Communion: Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (Mark 14)
Benediction – (2 Thessalonians 3:16): Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.